Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Ignition Cable

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The ignition cables, commonly referred to as the spark plug wires, are an ignition system component. While the vast majority of newer vehicles have now incorporated coil on plug ignition systems, ignition cables are still found on many road going cars and trucks. The ignition system works by firing off sparks at regularly timed intervals in order to ignite the engine’s fuel mixture. It is the job of the ignition cables to carry the engine’s spark from the ignition coil or distributor, to the engine’s spark plugs.

Spark plug cables are made of durable, low resistance materials that are able to withstand the high energy of the ignition system, as well as the harsh conditions underneath the hood. As they are link that carries the spark necessary for the engine to operate, when the spark plug cables have any issues they can cause problems that can affect engine performance. Usually faulty ignition cables will produce a few symptoms that can alert the driver of a potential issue.

1. Decrease in power, acceleration, and fuel efficiency

One of the most common symptoms of an issue with the ignition cables is engine performance problems. The ignition cables carry the spark from the coil and distributor to the spark plugs so that engine combustion can occur. If there is any issue with the spark plug wires the engine spark can be disturbed, which can result in engine performance issues such as misfires, a reduction in power and acceleration, as well as a reduction in fuel efficiency. In severe cases bad cables may even result in engine stalling.

2. Check Engine Light comes on

Another symptom of a potential issue with the ignition cables is an illuminated Check Engine Light. Faulty cables can lead to engine misfires as well as excessively rich air fuel ratio, both of which can set off the Check Engine Light if detected by the computer. A Check Engine Light can also be set off by a number of other performance issues, so having the computer scanned for trouble codes is highly recommended.

2. Visible wear or damage to cables

Visible wear or damage is another symptom of an issue with the ignition cables. Old cables may dry out, which may lead to cracks in the insulation. There are also instances where the cables may rub up against a hot manifold or engine component, which may cause them to melt and burn up. Both of these issues may compromise the cable’s ability to transport the spark to the spark. This can lead to misfires and other performance issues, and in more serious cases may even lead to the cables shorting against the engine.

While many newer vehicles are now being manufactured without ignition cables, they are still found on a large number of road going cars and trucks, and play a vital role in engine performance. If you suspect that your vehicle may be having an issue with the ignition cables, have the vehicle inspected by a professional technician, such as one from YourMechanic, to determine if the cables should be replaced.


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Rigoberto

9 years of experience
706 reviews
Rigoberto
9 years of experience
Chevrolet Equinox - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Niles, Illinois
Rigo was great! He got there early, finished the job early, left everything clean. He changed my rear pads and rotors. The original quoted time was 90 minutes, he was done in about 60. He knows what he is doing and I am recommending him to all my friends and coworkers.
Mercedes-Benz C250 - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - Chicago, Illinois
Rigo is a maverick hands down. Don’t take your car for work elsewhere. Especially great at Mercedes—this guy knows his profession! I will be using him for everything related to my car going forward.

Arturo

25 years of experience
35 reviews
Arturo
25 years of experience
Kia Forte - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - San Diego, California
ARTURO is great! very professional , fast, replaced my front brake pads and oil an filter change. everything now works and works well. Brakes have much improved stopping power and engine is smooth and quiet.Arturo is also kind and thoughtful. "Your mechanic" is very fortunate to have Arturo Lopez represent your company. I enthusiastically recommend him and "Your mechanic> as a fine operation Best regards to the Team Peter Marto
Nissan Maxima - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - San Diego, California
Arturo was prompt and completed my brake repair, including new rotors in a very efficient manner. I am very pleased with the quality of the work and the parts and will definitely look to have him service our other car in the near future.

Scott

32 years of experience
345 reviews
Scott
32 years of experience
Lexus IS250 - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Denver, Colorado
Always on time, speedy, professional, and pleasant to interact with. The work is always consistent and we'll done. I can't reccomend Scott highly enough!

Michael

10 years of experience
15 reviews
Michael
10 years of experience
Nissan Sentra - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Conyers, Georgia
He was promptly on time and got the job done efficiently in a timely manner. I really appreciate the rapid respone on getting the job done! I would most definitely use this service again.

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